This is a guest post from Transport Minister Michael Wood. We welcome guest posts from all political parties.

The release of the Chair of the Auckland Light Rail’s report on 29 October 2021 was a signal moment in the long history of light rail planning in our largest city. For the very first time an inclusive process that included transport and urban development agencies, central and local government, community, and mana whenua, have worked through the issue and come to a clear and informed view that Light Rail is a necessary investment for Auckland. Under the process I confirmed at the beginning of this year, Cabinet will make clear decisions about how the project should proceed before the end of 2021. The report has generated considerable public dialogue, including here at Greater Auckland, and so in this contribution I want to work through:

  • The journey to this point
  • The Chair’s report and the work of the Establishment Unit
  • Key issues and options
  • Making it happen

A long journey

Firstly, a few words about the history. This matters because the historic failure to secure the necessary political support and investment for rapid transit in Auckland tells us something about what we might need to do differently if we want the project to advance this time.

The starting point has to be Mayor Robbie’s Rapid Rail scheme – not light rail to be sure, but the main post-war attempt to develop a linked-up mass rapid transit scheme for the city. Tāmaki Makaurau would be unrecognisable had the plan gone ahead. Its failure was one of the key junctures that set us on a path of congestion, urban sprawl, and car dependency in the ensuing decades. It was of course quashed by the incoming Muldoon National government in 1975. Lacking central government support, it was simply unable to proceed.

Under Len Brown’s leadership, the new Auckland Council established in 2010 faced down an unwilling National government and secured shared funding for the CRL, but was unable to generate central government support for the Isthmus Light Rail network proposals it developed in the mid-part of that decade. The government of the day continued to fixate on a handful of mega-roading projects such as the East-West Link.

Finally, with Labour elected to government in 2017, central government was back at the table and with the Greens, two out of three government parties were keen to make mass rapid transit happen. The trouble, of course, was that in the end, the third party involved did not support the project proceeding. Complicating matters was the twin-track process. Conducted mainly as a commercial negotiation, it largely shut out Aucklanders, leading to a concurrent lack of support from local government.

For me as a Minister picking up the reins in 2020, and with a deep commitment to making Light Rail happen, the lesson from all of the above, is that if we are serious about this project then the leg work must be put into building a partnership between Auckland and Wellington. If either are not fully committed, a project of this scope and scale simply will not happen. That is why my focus this year has been on supporting a focussed, time-bound process to re-build relationships and broad consensus that light rail is needed for our city.

The Auckland Light Rail Establishment Unit has this focus built into its DNA. A unique governance structure involving elected representatives, community voices, mana whenua, central and local government agencies, and both transport and urban development officials have worked together to bring the project to this point, sharing perspectives, problem solving, and identifying issues that need further work. This work is about building a sustainable footing for the project after previous false starts.

The Chair’s Report and the work of the Establishment Unit

Most readers here will be familiar now with the Chair’s Report. It is a summary of the findings and Business Case developed by the Unit. It establishes the case for Light Rail investment, identifies the options, makes a recommendation, and provides advice about advancing the project from here.

Accompanying the report will be an Indicative Business Case for Light Rail. This is critical. Most of us have a ‘heart’ feeling for light rail. We’ve seen mass rapid transit of this kind work in other places. We know that when we have made investment in quality PT over the past 20 years that it has worked and created mode shifts. We can see a better future in which MRT acts as the lynchpin of an urban form that is more sustainable, nicer to live in, and supports community wellbeing. This is important, but the ‘head’ piece is essential too. The multi-billion investment that will be required has to stack up against the other calls for investment across transport and other parts of the public realm. This is where the IBC and the clear recommendations that stem from it are critical: ALR stacks up with a positive strategic, economic, and business case. All options deliver significant benefits including supporting up to 60,000 new houses along the corridor. Not only this, but ALR is a “necessary investment” that is required if Auckland is to meet a wide range of economic, social, and environmental challenges.

The Unit was told to investigate the key mode and route options for the corridor and to report back based on evidence and analysis. In response it has identified three options, all of which stack up and deliver significant benefits. Within those it has identified a preferred option, being “tunnelled light rail”. Broadly speaking the Unit sees this option as delivering most of the benefits of a full Light Metro system including greater long-term capacity and mode shift, higher urban development potential, and less construction disruption, but at a lower cost.

This preferred option has come under scrutiny from some in the Auckland urbanist community. People are of course entitled to their own view about the best way forward and I actually believe that good quality public debate is helpful. I would however ask people to step back a little from some of the heated rhetoric I have seen. The Establishment Unit is made up of skilled and committed people who want to see Light Rail proceed for Auckland. The governance board includes a diverse range of interests and perspectives, and officials working on the project have been drawn from both Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport. We even provided the ability for any Board member who felt differently to express that view in the final report, which one person did.

In short, if the preferred option of the Unit is not yours, that isn’t evidence of a plot to undermine the project or embedded prejudices as has been suggested at times, it is simply that reasonable people looking at a complex problem can come to different views. Across all domains, each option has different trade-offs whether that is capacity, disruption, emissions profile (embedded and enabled), housing uplift, urban amenity, cost, and opportunity cost. The report transparently lists the clear trade-offs between options in a way that is not common before final political decision-making, and is an important part of providing transparency. Critically, I’d emphasise that our Government does not have a pre-determined view. We will carefully work through the options before making a decision, and even then, any preferred option will continue to be worked on and improved at the detailed design stage.

Key issues and options

Cost is clearly a significant consideration. Retro-fitting a significant MRT project into an existing city will always require a big investment. We face the situation of making or having to make a number of these investments in our major urban centres now because of a failure to invest over a fifty-year period. The fundamental choice in front of us now is whether we invest at a time when the problems – including congestion, sprawl, carbon emissions, and air pollution – are becoming acute, or do we kick the can to the next generation? Nor does putting off investment necessarily save money. If growth is not facilitated on this corridor, it will need to be supported elsewhere and will likely be more expensive if it occurs at the city fringes. Nonetheless, value for money is clearly important and this was added by the Government as one of the key objectives of ALR. Obtaining maximum value for money means that we are able to make our investment go further, and meet more of the needs. This will be a significant consideration for Cabinet.

It is also important to note that the City Centre–Māngere Light Rail is not a project that sits in isolation. It will connect into the existing public transport network and is the first stage of a linked up MRT network that will also include lines to the North Shore and the North West. Investment in the project delivers benefits not only to the immediate corridor, but enables the development of a network that will benefit huge numbers of Aucklanders in the future.

As such, consideration of an appropriate city centre interchange looms large. Significant capacity and space will be needed to enable a quality interchange that will handle far more passengers than the existing heavy rail network. This is significant in the Unit’s preference for an underground solution for the city centre. While there may be other solutions, we will carefully consider this issue so as not to cut off options and end up with a classic “four-lane Harbour Bridge” situation as we did in the 1950s.

At this point, it’s worth commenting briefly on our progress towards the Congestion Free Network first proposed by Greater Auckland, which has subsequently become the cornerstone of Labour’s policy for Auckland’s PT network. Progress is now being made on key connections right across the city:

  • The CRL continues to make good progress and thanks to additional investment through ATAP 2021, it will be ready on Day 1 of operation to significantly increase network capacity.
  • Interim improvements to the Northwest Busway are underway and commuters will see improvements by the end of 2022. Business case work into extending a dedicated PT corridor further from Westgate is underway.
  • The Panmure to Pakuranga part of the Eastern Busway will shortly open with support from the Regional Fuel Tax.
  • The Eastern Busway is now fully funded and the Pakuranga to Botany stage will move to construction next year.
  • The electrification of the Papakura-Pukekohe line is funded, early works are underway, and full construction will commence over summer,
  • Puhinui Station Interchange is open, with interim improvements to the Botany-Puhinui corridor funded within ATAP
  • Planning is underway to increase capacity on the Northern Busway ahead of a PT-centred new harbour crossing.

I mention all of the above, because in the midst of big projects that take a long time to deliver, it is easy to forget the significant progress that has been made in recent years. The completion of the above projects and the ALR City Centre-Mangere line will deliver a substantial part of the CFN. Well done to everyone who has campaigned for it over the years!

Of all the issues on the table, the question of mode has probably generated the most comment, with strong proponents for both tunnelling and surface light rail. The specific trade-offs have been clearly articulated and I won’t repeat them here, but I will simply re-affirm that we will be heavily scrutinising all of them.

One issue that does bear comment is the debate about the extent of property acquisition built into the surface light rail route. An early claim that “500 properties will be acquired” has become somewhat embedded in dialogue about the issue. This stems from the Report which identifies that approximately 480 properties will be “affected”. This is a high level estimate of the number of properties affected (not necessarily outright acquired) by a ground level scheme, which almost unavoidably will be a higher number than for a tunnelled option – even if road widening is very limited. Road widening may be required at points, and does not mean that the project is building in acquisition to avoid any impact on vehicular traffic.

In fact, the surface light rail model will almost inevitably see all or most parking along the corridor removed. Widening at points may be required to facilitate high-quality accessible stations, cycle lanes (a key outcome we are building in) and nice wide pavements to cater for a higher urban population and busier town centres. Acquisition may also be important to drive and support some of the associated urban development that we want to see along the corridor. Ultimately, all of this will be refined during a comprehensive master-planning exercise at the next stage; running a firm ruler over assumptions will be important to ensure value for money.

Route is obviously a significant issue too. Mode largely determines the route through the central city and Isthmus. Surface Light Rail needs to follow the road corridor which is mainly a Queen St/Dominion Rd alignment. Tunnelling provides more flexibility, and would likely pick up the University Precinct, Kingsland, and the Sandringham corridor. Options around Mangere could vary and have been the subject of debate either way. Again, this is an issue we will look closely at but I do need to note that of all the communities the Unit engaged with, it was Mangere who spoke with the most unalloyed enthusiasm for the project, with a clear message that the local community has a strong aspiration for significant Light Rail-led urban renewal through their town centre. I have yet to be convinced that it would be equitable for the residents of inner Isthmus suburbs to have the convenience and opportunity of surface level Light Rail through their town centres, but not the people of Mangere.

Making it happen

Debate about all of these variations is good, and is not unexpected given the city-shaping nature of the proposal in front of us. I’m keeping my ears open, as are other Ministers. I would however encourage people who want to see MRT move forward for Auckland to remember that there is a war to be won, and not to solely focus on particular battles. At the outset I covered off the stymied history of Light Rail in Auckland. Making it happen will require unity and determination. The same regressive forces who argue against any progressive transport change are stirring once again, and will use their money and influence to try and stop change from happening. If you have a firm view about the options on the table then great, please let us know (no one seems to need too much encouragement) but please also get out there and help to sell the core case for Auckland Light Rail.

Forty-six years after small-minded thinking killed off Mayor Robbie’s Rapid Rail Plan, we have an historic opportunity in front of us. Here in Tamaki Makaurau we can create a world-class, linked-up mass transit system for our growing city. A connected congestion-free network with the CRL as the heart, and ALR as the spine, will open up public transport to hundreds of thousands people. It will create significant mode shift, cleaner air, and more opportunities for excellent walking and cycling connections. Well planned urban intensification along the route will provide more affordable housing for huge numbers of people, and easy access to shops, entertainment, education, and work. Lively town centres will become places that people want to visit instead of long-hauling to a mall on the other side of town. Diverse communities from inner city denizens to the people of Mangere will have their lives improved in many ways if we make this happen.

We know that this is what Aucklanders want, and I’m determined we’ll get there. There is much work ahead of us, but the firm base created by the Establishment Unit means that for the first time ever we have unity between central and local government to take the project forward. Mana whenua and community are at the table, and we have a solid business case to work from. There are many issues still to debate and work through, but if we can focus on the big goal here, we can make historic progress for Auckland. If you want to see Light Rail happen, then now’s the time to dig in and fight for it.

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  1. Congratulations! You know you’re making a difference in the world when the Minister himself wants to speak to your audience. And thank you Minister Wood for your words. I’m sure that Greater Auckland will hold you to them.

  2. Great to hear directly from the Minister and to get an understanding of what he is thinking – much better than the vacuum which often happens.
    It still seems to me that the tunneled option is just a greater expense so the road corridor is not impacted and stays car focused with parking. The surface option has many benefits but a key benefit for me is a wider perception / behavior change piece that the roads, especially arterials are for moving people be they in light rail, on a bike, on foot, scooter or in a car.
    And making a loud clear statement Dominion Road is changing towards a better future is an important statement that is also a lot cheaper than any tunneled option.

    1. That’s my take on it as well.
      Same as the harbour cycle bridge. Here’s what we’re willing to pay to avoid changing the status quo for cars.
      Anyway, great to hear from the minister and get some insight into the project. Whatever the final form is, it will be a big change to Auckland!

    2. Even in a transit corridor, pedestrian & LRT queen street for example, the carrying capacity of that corridor is not what an underground automated section of tunnels could carry.
      The City Center tunneled solution would have higher long term capacity.

      And while I understand that light rail could be a convenient tool to use to make our streets a much better urban experience. I think that’s like using a sledgehammer as a nut cracker. We could have just the same turnover of space / increase in bike & pedestrian space on any day of the week. Just because AT are seemingly incapable of doing it, doesn’t mean we should ‘hijack’ ALR to do it for them.

      1. Jack, large multi-city analyses show that the provision of rapid transit is insufficient to reduce emissions and reducing road capacity is a critical element.

        This isn’t hijacking ALR. It is best practice sustainable planning using Waka Kotahi’s “Intervention Hierarchy” properly.

        1. It was probably too strong of a word, but my overall point still stands.

          We don’t NEED to use ALR as a tool to create modeshift by using the road space for light rail. We could, and should, take away that car space and use it for any other thing. Urban trees, swales, wider bike lanes, whatever.

          Especially on queen street the car free ness of that is inevitable at this point.

          If there are better PT outcomes to be had by going underground under the downtown core, then we we should do that. The forced mode shift by reallocation need not be a point in surface light rail’s favor, that could be done with any other means.

  3. Thank you for the post Minister. We really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to engage on this important issue.

    The point you raise about Robbie’s Rapid Rail scheme is an interesting example and useful one given it has many similarities with the light rail proposal. Yes Muldoon’s government cancelled it but one of the key reasons for that was the same reason the 1950’s and 1920’s versions project failed too, it was simply too big. The project was essentially trying to do all the things we’ve done over the last 20 years in one single project – building Britomart, upgrading the network, electrifying the network and the City Rail Link too. We’re only building the CRL now because of all the smaller things we did earlier to upgrade the network which helped build usage and justification for the greater investment.

    A key lesson from that is we absolutely need a high-level vision, and ATAP provides that, but we need to be able to break the delivery of it down into smaller achievable chunks.
    With that in mind, one of the reasons we’ve been so supportive of the surface option is that it gives us a better ability to stage the delivery. We can always come back later and build a bigger scale project, such as undergrounding part of the route or adding another corridor to address issues. Far from being a negative, this could add additional benefits to Auckland’s PT network. In addition, we’ll always need something on the surface on Queen St and Dominion Rd so it’s not like any investment in this corridor now will be wasted.

    1. But Matt, when they cancelled it, they cancelled completely – took away the planning provisions for the long-term possibility of any part of Robbie’s Rail. That’s what seems to be the problem in NZ, especially since the MOW was cancelled – no one plans ahead. We’re all just sitting in a pile of crap until there is a law change and someone commits to actually doing something.

      That’s why we need decent route planning now, so that people can plan for the future. Pick the route and stick to it. Tell people “there WILL be a station here” so that they can build the housing around it, so that when it opens, there will already be a ready market to use it. That is, I believe, what happened with MetroLand in the UK, where the routes were clearly set out and suburbs grew to anticipate the arrival of the Tube.

    2. I agree. We need mode shift. We need a change in the way we build new housing so that the population is more densified. We need more active forms of commuting. In short, we need less cars and more equitable transport options. For the cost of one underground tunnel option, there could be several street level LR options, optimising the potential for mode shift on the isthmus. But I still believe that HR from South Auckland to the Mangere Employment hub, connecting with the Onehunga line with a future connection to the KiwiRail Avondale to Southdown railway, will provide more equitable options for the people of South Auckland, West Auckland and Mangere and create more rail transport links, esp with HR/LR connections at Dominion Rd and Maiora Rd. A 15 min service from Papakura would be ample and to maintain capacity on the NIMT, an express, limited stops service could replace the airport train in that time slot with a third main.

    3. Agree, it wasn’t small minded thinking that killed Robbies Rapid Rail, it was big minded thinking.

      The idea that you had to do it all, do it right the first time, build something that’s still flawless fifty years from now… that is exactly why Robbies plan never got off the drawing board.

      That rail plan was too big to fund, to much impact, too contentious. The equivalent of a single project costing twelve of fifteen billion dollars today.

      That’s double what will have been spent on the whole Auckland rail network once the CRL opens, and the Britomart-Double tracking-Station Rebuild-Electrification-new trains-CRL spend is spread over twenty years.

      What this project is saying we should spend forty years of rail development funds in one go on getting a single line going. This is robbies rail plan all over again.

      1. RRR, except now there is widespread public support for public transport projects, significant momentum with other massive projects underway currently, and urban form policies that will enable full utilization of such a big project.

        1. There was widespread support for robbies plan at the time, and a whole urban form policy hanging off it. The whole deal of robbies plan was to open up huge new areas of farmlaned for housing in east auckland, the north shore, hibiscus coast, mangere and the western fringe (notice how there were relatively few stops in the exisiting city at the time, it was all about getting trains out to the edges quickly)

          … the fact is all those urban form changes happened anyway, they just loaded up with roads and a few buses instead. All the public support and plans in the world didn’t get it funded and approved.

    4. Undergrounding part of the route sounds a lot like what in Brussels is called premetro. All metro lines over there started out as underground parts of the tram network. As lines were completed, they got converted to actual metro lines.

    5. “With that in mind, one of the reasons we’ve been so supportive of the surface option is that it gives us a better ability to stage the delivery.”

      What has been completely overlooked in the LRT “report” is:
      – Surface light rail is highly visible, and will promote itself. Tunnelled Light Rail is hidden, so there will be more need for promotion and best practice way finding.
      – No mention has been made of the reluctance of some users from descending into perceived “unsafe” underground stations.

  4. The reason the light rail scheme even came into existence was to solve the bus congestion on Dominion Road and subsequently into the central city.

    How will this be solved now that the preferred option uses a completely different corridor, capping capacity along a route that is expected to add thousands of housing units

    1. I imagine many of the people using a Dominion Road bus will instead use light rail. Given the choice between a 15 minute walk and quick metro ride, or a 2 minute walk and slow bus ride, my experience from living in other cities is that most people will choose the LR option. Also anyone coming from south of Mt Roskill (Lynfield, Blockhouse Bay, New Windsor, etc) would probably to transfer to LR given it currently takes about 30 mins from Roskill to City on bus.
      There is currently no bus congestion issue on Dominion Road, just projected congestion in decades to come. I highly doubt the projected congestion will occur with the proposed metro, if anything the bus frequency would probably decrease.

      1. “There is currently no bus congestion issue on Dominion Road,”

        The congestion is at the city end of the route, where there is not enough kerb space to accomodate more buses.

    2. No matter what option is chosen it will significantly reduce demand for buses along both Sandringham and Dominion Rds.

      1. Yes but a big part of the idea is also to use the chosen alignment for intensification and to drive demand. If this is done correctly there will be massive demand all along this alignment.

        1. Hard to see your logic suggesting the higher quality PT will drive intensification, which will drive an increase in patronage on the existing lower quality option. It will probably increase crosstown bus use in the area significantly but not buses running parallel to the LR routes.

    3. “The reason the light rail scheme even came into existence was to solve the bus congestion on Dominion Road

      The original reason promised by Saint Jacinda as an election bribe, was to get a small minority of people who wished to travel from Britomart to the Airport, to catch their vacation flights to the Gold Coast; ie “Light Rail to the Airport”

      That project has now experienced mission creep, and has become a major cornerstone of urban redevelopment on the Auckland Isthmus.

      ie: “whilst we are at it why don’t we build XXXX and YYYY?

  5. And given the horrendous cost of the preferred option, what is the expected cost and start time of the NW MRT line, now that this suddenly seems to have been determind to require light metro and undergrounding in the CBD

    1. Yes, the Northwest Line seems to have been downgraded to ‘About when the Shore needs it’ priority, which if the busway is anything to go by, will mean ‘a decade or more after the Shore gets it’.

      I’d like to ride this before I die, ya know.

    2. Demand is set to slow massively for greenfields growth out there in the far North West. The MDRS and NPS-UD are set to eat that greenfields development for lunch. Especially with the developer contributions changing, first in Drury, but I assume elsewhere soon enough.

      I think that is why its become less prominent in the materials. With the interim bus upgrades under construction, and if they did another tranche, adding some more dedicated infrastructure where it makes sense. Then that corridor might legitimately be fine, or perhaps better, as a busway long term.

      It would be much more likely to be able to handle the long term demands under a new growth scenario. And actually busways are good transit.

      1. Yes greenfields growth is set to slow which is great.

        However, people in the NW already need light rail. And the new bus station facilities are being designed in a severely compromised fashion, in terms of safety, in order to pacify Goddess Flo’, and do not count as all-ages, all-ability public transport infrastructure. So transport poverty will remain.

        1. For sure. But that doesn’t mean the solution to solve bad station designs is a full new rail corridor. These stations should be redesigned for to be much better long term solutions now the new housing demand is clear. I doubt they will, it would be another delay.

        2. A full new rail corridor? We have a transport corridor already. It simply needs some lanes reallocated to light rail.

          The motorway shoulders are not in the CFN. They are used by the AMA as breakdown lanes. The NW needs a line on the CFN.

        3. my mistake, *a full rail line.
          You could upgrade the shoulder lanes with barriers today, make the leftmost motorway lane a breakdown lane off peak.

          My point is, I think it would be much cheaper to have a busway on that spoke, given most of the running lanes are already there. And that a busway might be a good long term solution anyway.

        4. Of course it’s cheaper. The problem is it’s wholly insufficient. There’s going to be far more growth there than there is in the areas surrounding the North Shore Busway, but a LRT upgrade of the North Shore Busway is considered inevitable.

          And then you’d still have the same problem of a monstrous amount of buses at key points and the end of each route which is why Light Rail is on the agenda in the first place.

          It’s also, and I should stress this, not what was campaigned on. I can live with it being a day late, but being a dollar short as well after this kind of delay for a fast-growing corridor is unacceptable.

        5. There’s going to be far more growth there than there is in the areas surrounding the North Shore Busway

          I would be very, very surprised if that were the case. Do you have any reasoning?

          Yes we are limited on the number of city center buses. The point of isthmus LR is to get rid of some of them, so that we can run more on other routes. We want to get rid of the buses that are easiest / best to replace with denser modes, and use the limited bus space to serve routes that are best suited to buses as a mode. I think the north west is one that is well suited to buses due to existing (latent) infrastructure.

        6. “I would be very, very surprised if that were the case. Do you have any reasoning?”

          RedHills, Westgate, Huapai, Keumu. This is where housing is being built today, in the here are now, in densities you’re only seeing pockets of popping up on the Shore. As you work back towards the Western Line (Massey, Ranui, Swanson) the intensification and three story townhouses are going in at a rapid pace.

          It’s happening here because land prices make it uneconomic to do on the Shore. A huge portion of the city’s future housing development is happening beyond the reach of the Western line.

        7. “It’s happening here because land prices make it uneconomic to do on the Shore. A huge portion of the city’s future housing development is happening beyond the reach of the Western line.”

          You think land prices are higher in West Auckland? Do you have anything to back that up?

        8. No, I’m saying land prices are more expensive on the Shore – which is why the development is more likely and IS happening out there are a rate we’re unlikely to see on the Shore any time soon.

          It’s imperative that West Auckland get a rapid transit connection that isn’t the motorway for the same reason the rapidly growing areas in the South West get one.

        9. Currently there is basically zero PT on the northwest, with transport almost being supported entirely by cars on the motorway.
          You could serve an order of magnitude more trips than currently happen on the motorway with a BRT line along there.
          Stands to reason you could support an order of magnitude more people out there with the BRT.

          It’s happening here because land prices make it uneconomic to do on the Shore. A huge portion of the city’s future housing development is happening beyond the reach of the Western line.
          Have a look at the zoning:
          Currently overall the northwest is way more highly zoned than the north shore. With sweeping mixed housing urban zone and a lot of THAB, vs mixed housing suburban zone and a little THAB respectively. Of course there are only pockets of development on the north shore when the northwest is overwhelmingly a higher zone.
          This is being blasted way right now and will change where development is happening.

          Looking at the council maps, land values (I admit they are outdated) are not overwhelmingly higher on the shore. It is more expensive, but guessing, maybe 1/3rd more. An extra 1/6th the value of a new terrace house is not the thing stopping north shore redevelopment.

          Now I’m not saying that LRT would be dumb, but given that development will slow massively out there over the next few years, they should investigate BRT as a long term solution. From my layman’s perspective a BRT line should have enough capacity long term if they make a good attempt at it. Especially given the prices quoted for LRT and LM

      2. I’ll take that bet. Why would it slow? It’s future urban zoned, they’re not walking that back any time soon. SGA are all over it like a rash. One of the cheapest places to develop in Auckland too

        1. Massive new capacity being opened up in locations with much better transport, with the new housing changes from central govt. Combined with the rolling increases to development contribution costs for greenfields housing by the council.

          Now that there will be a better option closer in, if you value your time in the slightest, then you’ll want housing further in. Plus the land costs might not be so different if you’re paying the council 80k+ for your land on top of land and development costs.

          Most AUP upzoning was further out of the city so has resulted in development patterns with intensification in pretty far flung places, like butwizzard says, out west etc. PWC’s report thinks intensification will adjust inwards once that is more legal.

  6. I support the project. Along with the CRL there will be many more PT users. I hope that they can find ways to cut the very high cost. Grand and large $60 million stations are not needed. Most of our stations are surrounded with huge areas of concrete that would be better filled with apartments and ready customers

  7. Yes Muldoon killed off Robbie’s overpriced rail. But the Kirk government promised it without budgeting for it (kind of like that bike bridge over the harbour).

    1. If Robbie had proposed just electrification of the same gauge in the late 60s, he would have got his city tunnel funded in the late 70s when Melbourne built it’s one, and hopefully sneaked in a few new lines and extensions by the late 1980s like Sydney did.

      If he’d been less ‘big vision’ we’d be fifty years ahead of where we are today.

  8. I appreciate the Minister taking the time. I would like to make the following comments:

    1) Re: chiding urbanists for the “conspiracy theory” that the LRT options have been deliberately chosen to be financially and politically unpalatable to make sure nothing happens. Precisely this happened with the Northern Pathway. It is not a conspiracy theory to extrapolate a pattern of behaviour.

    2) The Minister does not comment on why the options produced by ARL are so eye-wateringly expensive, if NOT to price them off the table altogether. Why is price-per-kilometre nearly double that of Sydney LR, if not because of sabotage?

    The Minister is being disingenous interpreting urbanists’ responses to be due to a preference for surface light rail. Even surface light rail is far too expensive in the ALR report. We believe that prices are being inflated to the point where it is pretty obvious that Cabinet will never go for ANY of the options; or that the scheme will certainly be cancelled after the 2023 election by the next Government. We have every reason to believe that there will NEVER be light rail, of any sort, if it’s not a surface rail option at no more than 50% of the budget suggested by ALR.

    The Minister can simply not guarantee that any of these options will ever happen because they are gold-plated out of feasibility. He is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

    1. One possible explanation for the high price-per-kilometre is that half the route (Dom Road to Airport) is not surface level LR on an existing road. For all we know that section may make up a big part of the $9 billion. Comparing cost per km is very difficult as the comparable projects are not very comparable.

        1. Its not exactly a flat motorway corridor with plenty of width either side. First it has to get through Hillsborough Road (tunnel?), then over the Manukau harbour (bridge), and then I imagine the entire motorway needs widening (all new off ramps etc) so it can run through the middle. Can’t see how that costs less than chucking some tracks on an existing road.

        2. As you were repeatedly told a few months ago, including extensive explanation of the other elements, it isn’t just chucking some tracks on an existing road. Virtually the entire section north of Onehunga you are building a greenfields track on a straight forward bed. South of the Harbour you are doing the same until Bader Drive, where you bridge across to a future proofed central reservation.

          The whole way up Dominion Road you are essentially rebuilding an entire road while you try to keep it open.

        3. Pretty sure the original AT costing was around $1 billion when it was Dom Road only and $3 billion for the full route to the airport. That implies the motorway corridor costs twice as much as the surface level.

        4. And it has to go underground with underground station at the airport too. That won’t be cheap.

        5. $1b was the discounted cost, $3b was the actual cost and the motorway section is twice as long, so the motorway section was cheaper per km.

        6. Jimbo, they’d do the motorway sections like they did the northern busway, along one side without touching the motorway and little change to the ramps.

          But you pick up on one of the WTF moments of all of this.

          On the bits where its easy to go straight and direct at street level, they’re proposing a long ass tunnel to go on a longer route sideways out west for $$$$.

          On the bits where its easy to go straight and direct alongside the motorway at ground level, they’re proposing to wind off and wiggle at street level through the suburbs, for extra length and $$$$ again.

          Their hybrid seems like the completely backwards approach to me. Matts other post talked about a “reverse-hybrid”, street level on the inner third where there isn’t any motorway, and metro grade separated on the outer two-thirds where there is.

          Why don’t the test Matts option?

      1. Good point.
        Are the highly inflationary times we live in another potential factor? And conservative estimates on further inflation?
        Could this critical cost question be put to the Minister please?

    2. Daphne I agree with every word of your comment. Well done. “Gold plated out of feasibility” sums it up perfectly.

    3. “Re: chiding urbanists for the “conspiracy theory” that the LRT options have been deliberately chosen to be financially and politically unpalatable to make sure nothing happens. Precisely this happened with the Northern Pathway. It is not a conspiracy theory to extrapolate a pattern of behaviour.”

      Evidence please? Yes the Northern Pathway has been a bit of a disaster but I’ve seen no evidence this was intentional. Rather it looks to me like the government thought they could sell the project despite the high cost but completely failed. Indeed all evidence I’ve seen suggests that those that be were genuinely surprised by the extremely negative reception. In other words a classic case of don’t put down to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence.

  9. With Heavy rail unlikely to expand much as a network, whatever is built next will probably provide the standard pattern for the next generation or two of building and place making.

    I prefer surface based light rail as it will be more extensible at a more reasonable cost, I point to the expansion of the Gold Coast Light Rail as an example of investing on a core and then expanding it as a model we should emulate.

    To the minister, your communication is welcome, if not a little late.

    1. It doesn’t matter if it is surface or tunneled light rail, though. Because it is using LRT tech, extensions can be built as surface light rail if desired to keep costs down. This added flexibility is likely a big reason they are recommending this option over light metro, which would always require grade separation.

    2. I think this is actually the big selling point for metro. The next LR routes are the North Shore and North West (not sure which order). The North Shore will almost certainly be underground in the city so can piggy back on any investment made in Metro (and probably not terminate in the city), and the North West will need a city route too and I doubt Queen Street surface would have capacity for both Airport and NW lines but metro probably would.

      1. North shore line I assume will be tunnelled

        I wonder if some of the thinking behind tunnelled LR to the airport is that dedicated TBMs might be used and kept on rather than dismantled and sold off?

        Regardless of surface or tunneled LR, I really hope a dedicated team is kept cranking lines for the next 20+ years rather than having to start from scratch every time and try and assemble a very large team of experts to make a project happen

        I have never understood how the Northern busway proved so successful, but instead of getting on and building the next busway along the NW or out to the East, they just seemed to stop

        1. The CRL TBM is only costing 13.5 million for the project duration.

          They’re impressive machines, but in the scheme of 10+ B, peanuts. I don’t think many savings will be found there.

        2. Establishing the team of experts (prob from overseas), the process, and the removal setup for spoil isn’t cheap though. Just keep it going under the harbour. And why stop there.

  10. Thank you so much posting this.

    I desperately want there to be better PT in Auckland and dominion road is absolutely the place to build capacity. But why were so few options (with such little info) created by ALR? This is sort of the acid test for the concept of light rail in NZ and all three options have double the price of the over budgeted Sydney light rail project. Is not bare bones, at the space expense of cars system worth a look?

  11. Thank you minister for your insights. I would pick up on one of your major points and expand on it. If it was a failure to build MRT in Auckland in the 1960’s and 70’s then it will be a failure if Christchurch, Hamilton, and Tauranga, do not get the same opportunity to prevent the harm cars have done to Auckland. Christchurch is the more urgent case – the largest city is Australasia without MRT.

    Light Rail should not be one-and-done… there needs to be a programme to roll out lines in a steady staged manner throughout Auckland, then Christchurch and the other “Tier One” cities. By building expertise and capacity we can control costs. It may take 25 years – but a consistent roll out needs to be part of any decisions taken now.

      1. Heidi. I presume the reason for proposing the light rail on the current route is that is where it will be were it has most benefit. It would have a local environment impact to squash bus rapid transit into it. However on the North Shore the Northern Busway already exceeds the Maximum number of people the surface rail is expected to reach (6,850 per hour for the Northern Busway 6,250 for surface light rail). The North West also has space for proper Bus Rapid Transit. Spending $10 billion to tunnel light rail to both of these, when mass rapid transit already exist, would be of questionable value.

  12. Great that the Minister has talked to the audience of GA, people who are genuinely interested in transport solutions. It seems far more useful than talking to many of the mainstream media who are only interested in a sound bite at best, or clickbait at worst.

  13. What goals is the project trying to achieve/solve, and what are their priorities? The original LRT proposal was to relieve buses on Dom Rd but the current schemes appear to have conflicting goals, e.g. route, speed vs access.
    Can the government fund a $14B scheme given other demands such as hospitals, pharmac, education, poverty, public sector wages, etc.? If so, how will it be done?
    Are the tunneled options possible, given staging would only practically be possible with a surface route?
    Heavy rail was dismissed without analysis of costs and consideration of the Avondale-Southdown needing to be built soon anyway, or potential for staging, or potential for combined solutions, e.g. rail spur to Wesley from NAL and surface LRT on Dom Rd. Could this be part of achieving goals in a more affordable way?
    What is happening with NW LR and the 10 year timeframe?
    You mention the East-West link which has been under evaluation for 4 years. What alternative options are being considered and when will something be done?

    1. “The original LRT proposal was to relieve buses on Dom Rd”

      The original promise was poorly communicated by Jacinda as Light Rail to the Airport.

  14. Does anyone know the route once the surface light rail passes through Mangere Town centre. The pictures show it turning off Bader drive and going past the Pak and Save.
    If you look at the map there are only fairly narrow crescents for it to travel along to get back to the motorway. Perhaps this makes up a significant proportion of the 500 property which are affected or require acquisition. I know these crescents are narrow because on street parking was so fraught that only the desperate would use it. So much so that there was little opposition when protected cycle lanes were installed not that anyone uses them. Also the 70’s style small houses on relatively big section meant that off street parking was available. I wonder if some or all are state houses maybe they are going to bowl the whole lot and the extra cost to rebuild them has being lumped into the project.

  15. Why such enthusiasm for surface level light rail trundling along Dom road at about 60km per hour? I know the aesthetic is nice to urbanists (besides the over head wires of course) but seriously I’ve never found trams a particularly effective mode to use overseas. Pretty meandering compared to properly grade separated rapid transit. (as opposed to just on a slightly raised median that has to still go through intersections)

    Surely what we need is actual rapid transit to move people quickly. Yes this is expensive but as he says regardless of what option you choose there will be push back so why not invest for the long term in a proper RT system for Auckland.

    1. It would not be going at 60km/hr more likely 30-50.
      But that’s already significantly faster than most Auckland arterials in rush hour.

      And this is worth a read. The trip time difference between top speeds it not much at all over 800m station spacings. Doing 50 vs doing 80 is ~8 seconds different, and having 100 as a top speed is pointless because even under decent accelerations, it would never reach that speed.
      It might feel “trundling” and slow, but that’s just human perception, and does not impact all that much on actual trip times. Which is what people really care about.

      1. So if for our HR network we bought trains with a top speed of 30km/hr that wouldn’t affect speed or patronage?

        1. Firstly our HR network generally has longer station spacings.

          On a surface light rail route that has ~800m stations ideally anyway, then overall trip times is not impacted very much at all by having 50 or 80+ top speed.

          But funnily enough the line with the lowest average speed in Auckland has the best patronage. Because it stops more and in better places. Like surface dominion road would do.

        2. I’d argue it is more because of the “better places” than the “stops more”. I can’t think of many places overseas that have both LR and metro with the LR being used more than the metro. Maybe in very compact cities.

        3. There are a quite a number of cities where the light rail is used a lot more than the metro, because there are a lot of cities that have more light rail lines than metro lines, because it’s much easier to build light rail.

          Some examples, Los Angeles, Istanbul, Helsinki, San Francisco, Kyoto…

      2. Yep and ‘human perception’ is a big part of what will drive usage.

        30 to 50km per hour removes the rapid from rapid transit.

        1. What drives usage is people getting to destinations quicker, when I plan journeys, I don’t care about how fast I feel the vehicle goes, I care about trip times. If you can save on infrastructure costs, so you can build more lines, then overall peoples average trip times will be lower, and you will get more usage.

          Not to mention, frequent, convenient stations also shortens journey times.
          I’ll propose a trip from the document: from midtown to onehunga is supposed to be 26 minutes vs 20 minutes for surface light rail, and light metro respectively. If someone has to now walk 6 minutes (or more) further to the station because there are half as many of them, then the travel time savings for them are immediately blown away. I’m sure some simple geometry (that I’m too lazy to do) would tell you that huge numbers of people, if not most would be impacted by is increase in travel times, and the overall time savings of doing a tunneled mega project are mostly gone.

          The extra walking distance impacts gets worse and worse the closer to the city you get because the savings of LM vs LRT are getting less and less.

        2. Jack – you think that’s how most people choose what mode to travel on? they look at travel times on the AT website or graphs on Greater Auckland? No they don’t they choose what they perceive to be faster and a trundling tram stopping every 800m will not convince many to ditch the car, well not outside of the urbanist bubble that reads this blog who are already using PT anyway. You’ll probably just transfer those who are already catching the bus on Dominion road and that’s fine but to really change behavior in Auckland I think you need proper rapid transit.

          You’ve admitted it ‘feels slow and trundling’ that’s what will matter to most people.

        3. No, I think that people put their trip into google maps or the AT app, and that spits out trips that are fastest. Not trips that are perceived as fastest.
          And it most certainly includes walking time.
          Commuters care about when they get home or when they leave, banging out an extra 800m of walking makes that time later, and less attractive.

          The reason more people don’t use the trains in Auckland is because they’re awful to get to. I live what would be considered close to the rail network when looking at a map. 1.3km away, but that takes me, an able bodied bloke, 17 minutes to walk. That doubles my trip time to the city, right then and there and actually makes very driving competitive.
          In fact if there was an infill station, and some better walking infrastructure, rail in my neighborhood would be vastly more attractive.

          You’ve admitted it ‘feels slow and trundling’ that’s what will matter to most people.
          It will be faster than driving, so…. if my “might” becomes reality, then cars are already slower, and trundlier.

          I really think you should review your argument: you think that we should spend billions more on a rail solution, primarily because people will think it makes their trips faster? when looking at their clock they know full well it doesn’t.

        4. Weird because its already quicker to use the bus on Dominion road due to bus lanes and yet its still clogged with single occupancy vehicles. Must be something wrong with that journey planner on the AT website everyone is supposedly using?

          Maybe your own argument could stand a bit of review?

        5. Personally I’m with the “time taken” POV. Perhaps a vehicle being slow doesn’t help with perceptions, but ultimately if the train is taking me 50 minutes to get where I want to go + 10 minutes walking vs 20 minutes by car, that makes me feel it’s not worth it. And yes my experience is with the Western Line, speeding it up may help but if you’re coming from Henderson going to the city or New Market let alone south, you can’t get around the fact the route is not very direct. As for further afield……… That’s one reason why some alternative be it BRT, light rail, whatever is IMO sorely needed.

    2. Let’s just quote from Ngarimu Blair as to why surface LR is the better option:

      Carbon reduction – surface Light Rail has less embedded carbon (because there is less concrete, and steel involved in construction) so it achieves carbon neutrality fastest.
      Lower forecast costs.
      Greater Social equity – more funding available to invest in other projects to improve public transport access for lower income communities.
      Greater potential for Mode shift – with the Tunnelled Light Rail and Light Metro options Dominion Road will remain dominated by private vehicles.
      Better Safety and Accessibility – with the Light Metro and Tunnelled Light Rail options there will be fewer stations than Light Rail and some of them will be underground.
      Better urban design outcomes.

      1. “Carbon reduction”: Only if surface is a permanent solution that never requires a capacity rebuild and is as attractive to users as metro. Would the London Underground have been more Carbon Neutral as surface LR?
        “Greater Social equity”: The lower income communities in Mangere and beyond would benefit most form the increased speed of metro.
        “Greater potential for Mode shift”: Seems unlikely, Dominion Road is currently two general traffic lanes, would be two traffic lanes with LR, and I doubt it will ever be widened to 4 general traffic lanes in the future.
        “Better Safety and Accessibility”: Surely a dedicated route is safer. Surface isn’t always more accessible, for example transferring in the city to HR or NSLR would probably be much easier with Metro particularly in the wet. In fact you probably wont even need to transfer to North Shore.
        “Better urban design outcomes”: Not necessarily, all that space that was going to be used for rail could now be used for cycling, footpaths, etc.

        1. Oh yeah and:
          “Greater Social equity”: the metro option runs through a lot more state housing areas in Mt Roskill / Sandringham than the surface option. It also serves the university.

        2. Mentioning London is a great example, the main reason that the underground didn’t / doesn’t go much south of the river is because back in the day, the trams were ubiquitous in the south and were much cheaper to build and operate, so had much cheaper fares. Making any underground expansions uncompetitive (ie a worse solution)

          There were other factors, but I think that’s the main one.

          The surface light rail line will never have to be ‘rebuilt’. It might need extra infrastructure in the downtown core, namely the tunnel eventually. But there is a big advantage to splitting up and staging projects. And the surface downtown route would still run services even with the bypass tunnel. So no ‘rebuilding’ more adding infrastructure when it will actually be needed and used.

          attractive to users as metro Attractive to which users? the ones that have to walk 2x as far to a station because the metro has bigger station spacings?

        3. “The lower income communities in Mangere and beyond would benefit most form the increased speed of metro.”

          $9 billion on surface LR + $5 billion on other infrastructure/community improvements; or $14 billion on a tunnelled system which would get you to the CBD maybe 5 minutes faster? I think you overestimate how many long-distance trips those communities will want to take.

          “Surface isn’t always more accessible”

          You’re obviously not a mum with a pram, a person with a disability, or someone who has reason to worry about strangers lurking in shadows.

        4. Daphne: I was a dad with a pram and yes getting around is a pain in the arse, obviously for someone with a disability it is even worse. But if we want Aucklanders to significantly increase PT ridership, we need to be appealing to the masses, and journey time / reliability are the biggest factors.
          I am not anti surface level, but I do think metro would be much more transformational in terms of ridership.

      2. Agreed,there seems to be a very “male ” approach to the underground option,rapidly getting from point A to point B,letting the passengers out in environments, which are not where they feel comfortable. Well over half our population are not male ,and are aged under 16,should this demographic be sacrificed for speed. We have already done this to them ,with our “free flowing vehicle” thinking, so l guess the feeling is they don’t matter.

        1. Females have more free time to slowly get from A to B? Sure Metro isn’t for everyone, but it is hard to deny its popularity in the places that have metro, mainly because the vast majority of people (of all genders) like the speed. If accessibility is your main requirement, what is wrong with bus?

        2. That’s a very sexist assumption to make Bryan. Women don’t appreciate a quick journey? Really??

        3. Bryan wasn’t implying that women have more free time. He was pointing out that “free flowing vehicle” thinking doesn’t serve trips that, more typically for women than for men, involve:
          – more trip chaining, meaning going to and from station platforms more frequently,
          – more caregiving (of people both less mobile and less predictable in their behaviour),
          – more carrying of shopping, children and other people’s belongings, and
          – somewhat more concern about personal safety.

          Designing for (public or private) vehicle speed over longer distances is a paradigm we should be moving away from for good reason. It doesn’t serve **people** well. No point ignoring the problems of a legacy left from an era when women’s needs were ignored by planners who only understood commuting. I’ve just been in a meeting today showing that the planning mindset has shifted away from commuting, but still prioritises vehicle speed over the needs of children, of access, of accessibility and of Vision Zero.

        4. I’m not saying we should ignore those factors, but we also cannot ignore speed. Just look at any Facebook discussion e.g. those here in Henderson about the trials and see the complaints from people of all genders about some reduction in speed/increase in travel time. The fact is many countries seem to have managed to achieve some sort of balance between accessibility and speed that works well for people

    3. I would propose that Dominion road would be closed to thru traffic and the only cross traffic would be at Balmoral road, which I would build an underpass for the road. There would be no cross traffic for the length of Dominion Road. All of the sides streets would either have a cul-de-sac or 1 way connection to the next street. This would leave Dominion road for the Light rail and Cycle lanes. I would re-zone the entire length of Dominion road to allow up to 20 story apartment buildings. The entre corridor could be the Housing stock that Auckland needs

    4. Dominion Road is 4.5km long, and it’s less than a third of the route.

      At 60km/h they’d get from one end to the other in four and a half minutes. Even at 30km/h it would take less than ten minutes.

      It’s a shame they’ve changed to calling this a tram, because it shouldn’t be a tram. It should be light rail.

      1. What will happen with any of the options being proposed is that we will be promised XXXX amount of stations, to increase the walk up catchment area. When the bids come in for the actual construction, the number of stations will be reduced, then reduced again, then reduced to the point where the project no longer meets its original objectives.

        ie; In a planning meeting, someone will ask “can’t we just get rid of some of the stations?”

  16. I don’t have any doubt that everyone in the Establishment Unit is working hard and working with very good intentions. What concerns me is the exceptionally high price.
    Worldwide, the average cost for building full underground subways (not “tunnelled light rail”!) is NZ $250 million per kilometer, including stations*. Why are we spending much more for that, for a system that is significantly lower quality? Part of the issue is surely that the tunnelled proposals are specified to use mined stations, not stations that are build by digging down from the surface. Mined stations are very very expensive, with prices worldwide starting at about $500 M per station. Average cost for a cut-and-cover station is more like $150 M.

    And why is there no discussion of driverless trains as a separate mode with separate tradeoffs? I think you can make a very very good case that that’s better than either LIght Metro or Tunnelled Light Rail. The key benefit of driverless operation is that you don’t have to pay a train driver’s salary per train, so you can run shorter trains much more often. The majority of the cost of an underground line is the stations (boring the tunnel itself is actually relatively cheap), and smaller stations are cheaper. Driverless operation does requires full grade separation, so you’d probably end up putting the line on elevate tracks through parts of Mangere. That is more expensive than surface rail, but it’s clear that you’d save more money by building shorter platforms than you’d spend to elevate some of the line in Mangere.

    I’m not trying to claim that Driverless Metro is absolutely the way forward. It needs to be properly assessed against the other options, and maybe it doesn’t win. I’m just really confused that the question of “should the line be driverless?” is treated like a minor downstream question, when it actually has really bit impacts on route selection, construction costs, and the usefulness of the line. Furthermore, I’m worried that this is emblematic of a design process that is insufficiently curious about best practice in the rest of the world.

    * Istanbul can build subways for NZ $150 M/km, but they’re one of the best cities in the world for cost control.

    1. $250 mil per km x 23km would be around $5.7 billion. Construction costs seem to have risen significantly in NZ (and no doubt around the world) in the last 5 years, so it wouldn’t surprise me if $10 billion is more accurate. Then add in the NZ factor (we will have to import a lot of specialist knowledge, we have no established suppliers, etc) and the price does seem to pass the sniff test to me.

      1. Construction costs have risen dramatically over the last 20 years in the anglosphere + germany + singapore + taiwan, but there are plenty of countries worldwide where prices have remained largely steady. The $250 M/km average price includes all the places with very high costs, so that means that the actual average price outside of the anglosphere is more like $200 M/km.

        The emerging consensus seems to be that the rising prices are mostly driven by design choices, not by exogenous constraints such as higher safety standards or difficult terrain. As one example: best practice is to build the line as shallow cut and cover, using top-down construction and vertical retaining walls so that you can fit the line between the underground services that run the length of dominion road. (You’d still need to move the pipes that actually run across the road, but there are only a handful of those.) By shallow, I mean only one or two meters below the surface of the road. This would be much less disruptive than the cut and cover that we’re seeing in the CBD, because that had to go very deep, and deep mean long construction times. A top-down construction method would also allow you to reinstate the road surface before you finish excavating the tunnel underneath.

        Shallow cut and cover would definitely be more disruptive than bored tunnels and mined stations, and that’s presumably why it was ruled out. But it would also save literally billions of dollars! Part of the role of government is to stand up against local interests who want them to spend an extra $3 billion dollars to avoid a couple of years of roadworks. Of course roadworks suck. But at that price, they’re worth it.

        1. The additional operating cost of tunnels is more than the operating cost you save with driverless, drivers aren’t that big a cost.

          …and thats after you’ve spent billions more to build grade separated tunnels and viaducts over 100% of the route.

          The cost of capital on a billion dollars is $40m a year. So every billion you add to the capital cost enough to pay the salaries of four hundred drivers in perpetuity. Going driverless costs a lot of money and it’s definitely not the cheapest way to get high frequencies.

        2. Riccardo: But what sort of frequencies are we talking about? 10 minutes at peak times? 5 minutes 24/7?

        3. There isn’t anything in the latest publications but the sort of thing they’ve talked about before is every five minutes at peak and maybe every ten minutes at other times. Not 24 hours but more like 18 to 20 a day.

          Say it’s an hour and a half round trip with six trips an hour for 20 hours a day. Add in an extra six trips an hour for four hours of peak on weekdays. That’s 65,700 + 9,360 = 75,060 driver-hours a year. Or about 40 full time drivers. Their salaries and costs are going to be around $4m a year at the most, it’s just not a big factor when the capital cost is sixteen billion bucks and there’s multiple billions difference between the options.

  17. Great to hear from the minister. I have to say that if I was given that report I would spend 25% more on metro any day of the week. So the question is whether the surface option was deliberately over costed (seems unlikely to me with such a diverse panel), if it was over designed, or if it is just the genuine cost in todays construction sector. I imagine it is the latter. But more details would be nice.

    1. Yep agree. Can’t believe some of the arguments here – spend billions now and cause large disruption on what is essentially a short to medium term solution and then spend billions again and cause more disruption turning it into something we could have had from the start. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  18. Kudos to Michael Wood for taking the time to present his thoughts to the readers of this blog, and it’s pleasing to see he remains committed to make mass transit happen.

    I’m hoping behind the scenes he’s asking hard questions of the cost estimates for the various options, all of which seem very expensive, and much higher than similar projects overseas. The more money invested in the city center to airport light rail, the higher the cost in lost opportunities to build other parts of the network. And as we saw the Auckland harbour bridge cycle path debacle, opponents of light rail will weaponize the cost of the project against it.

  19. Saying light rail is needed to enable housing is saying there will be a housing shortage (and therefore crisis) until the distant future when light rail arrives. This is an incredibly bleak position for Labour to take.

  20. Yet again this government wants to blowout people taxes! No way I’m paying for a 9-14 billion project which is going to fail for all! And absolutely no way I’m paying for only one light rail line along either Sandringham Rd or Dominion Rd which will travel less than 50km/hr and then a really slow journey to the airport. It’s not even ethical to even be doing this project at all or is it even sensible!

    It would be better if we put money towards extending the Onehunga line and let it terminate at Mangere and rename the line to Mangere line. In around 2028-2030 look towards to adding 4 lines on the Southern line along from Newmarket to Penrose. Also add a new line from Puhinui to create a track to the airport. Now that I would definitely would wanna pay for since it would provide better benefits for both the government and people living in Auckland.

    To build Kaianga ora houses they should look towards building those around Onehunga area or Ellerslie – Greenlane area instead of bringing it to Mount Roskill area since it would provide a lot better benefits for those in Kainga Ora program. It would provide better access to commercial business, industrialised business, retail area and easier access to transport given these places have already got those but need to be modernised by help of the government to cater for more people.

    1. Your option adds no benefit to anyone except Mangere, so probably only 1/10th of the overall benefit at best. And it probably costs 1/2 of the cost.

      1. Yes this option would have benefits for everyone living in Onehunga and Greenlane-Ellerslie area since those places aren’t exactly safe communities to be around at moment, especially at night where you can easily get mugged or stalked.

        The benefits It would provide is the things I stated in the first post I created, Also to note that if they’d built more retail, commercialised buildings, more Kaianga Ora house and bigger rail station it would make it more of welcoming area to visit and make it feel more safer to travel too due more people out in public who could surveillance incidents quite easily.

        We particularly need Kaianga Ora houses in the Greenlane – Ellerslie since that place is quite industrialised and has few commercial buildings but feels pretty sketchy place to visit if you’re going there for work. We literally need more people living in that area to make it safe and access better transport. They could really add few more business there to attract even more jobs too.

        If you go work at Ellerslie then you’ll definitely have that feeling of it being sketchy cause all there is a carpark nearby the station and especially the tunnel people have to go through to get to the carpark, it really doesn’t feel safe walking through there due to lack of modernisation of state of buildings and have very few people around the area.

        Plus if you walk up to Great South Road it even feels unsafe walking across that road since cars go really fast sometimes go through during red light. We need to also add electric shuttle service to make it easier to get to places.

        This idea would be ideally better for all Aucklanders and would far less expensive than the light rail project.

        1. Again, much much less benefit and still spending at least the same cost. Onehunga line should be changed to LRT as well.

        2. Not true @KLK, there’s heaps of benefits to it, if they put Kaianga Ora houses in the area it will definitely bring more people in the suburb the better it gets for people and businesses in the area, If you phased out a step by step plan approach by each year they should be able to get these project done on time and at a fast pace compared to light rail.

          The cost would be less, if you were to go with the light rail $9-14 billion plan it would be very risky to build due accumulating cost of constructing the line. With Heavy rail its less risker and would be less than 25-30% of the light rail project and no the Onehunga line should remain as a Heavy rail line which light rail would have no benefit at all running it on.

        3. Aaron, so even if it is 30% of LR cost:
          a) It does not have stations at Wynyard, Mt Eden, Balmoral, Mt Roskill, Hillsborough, Mangere Bridge?, Airport, and many others.
          b) It only aids Mangere state housing, not Mt Roskill and Sandringham (which is a better location)
          c) It does nothing for the original Dominion Road bus problem
          d) It would create an even more unbalanced rail network
          e) HR would be slower than metro

        4. @JimboJones the government objective is to place station at the place you’ve just listed but its not what’s best for the Community of whole of Auckland at all.

          Also for Kaianga Ora should be placed in Onehunga or Greenlane – Ellersilie area but Mount Roskill or Sandringham is the governments choice cause their obviously the one who runs Kaianga Ora. Yet again pretty sure most of these people who will be living around the area that the government intends to set up will not be beneficial to those who will be living in that area because there more likely needing transport to Ellerslie, Penrose, Wiri and Manukau and currently there’s no direct way of going from there without the hassle of having to travel such a long way and a long travel time.

          Dominion road doesn’t have a bus problem it just has a people driving in cars problem. If you reduce the fares of transport network that should do the trick and also adds more frequency. Along with it put levies camera just like what they’re planning to do in the CBD then it should definitely work!

          Rail network will be fine and won’t have any problems what’s so ever with the speed it travels to between stations if were to be the case then it it would be the operations managers fault cause they don’t know how to run it properly.

        5. “Yes, this option would have benefits for everyone living in Onehunga and Greenlane-Ellerslie”

          Most of which already have access to 2 rapid transit lines. But you’d like to spend on additional amenity for them and dismiss most of the people who don’t currently have RT and who would benefit from the new line.

          Do you live in Onehunga/Greenlane/Ellerslie?

        6. @KLK people living around Sandringham and Mount Roskill don’t need any sort of Rail transportation at all, all they need is a bus lane and some camera operators to levy people who use that road since far too many people use that road its time to make some sort of change for the better! Along with it would make fares cheaper.

          Plus you could literally put a bus area right in the Mount Roskill town centre since theirs space and would only cost few hundred thousand to build. On top of that theirs a bus depot behind The warehouse to cater more buses if needed.

          I’ve been to both Onehunga and Ellerslie far to many times now mate, the current state its in is shocking and unappealing to people and now wonder why people don’t use transport to get to those areas, its time for those areas to modernised for the better!

          The Onehunga line is currently under utilised because amount of trains which run on it every hour, it literally runs on one train every minute. It honestly should be running every 20 mins and on peak 10 mins and extend the line to Mangere should be planned instead.

          The design of Onehunga station is really badly laid out and doesn’t keep people in shelter from the rain when the is and where the bus stops are located on top of that there’s no bus shelter on either side of road. The nearest bus stop on the side of the station is a far distance for someone to walk too.

          For Ellerslie it is honestly one of the worst stations on the line, there are a lot of industrial businesses and commercial businesses long there and people need proper transport which is why they should add electric shuttle service to get too hard to reach places along Ellerslie.

        7. It sounds like you have lots of ideas to improve those corridors, but none of them require spending billions to add just one station to a line that can only run 20mins.

          And that last point is key – it can’t really run any better frequencies because of network constraints. Hence changing it to cross-town LRT/LM line from New Lyn and terminating at Ellerslie (or, if unable, Penrose). But that line need not be traded off against the line through the Isthmus. They are both needed.

        8. @KLK only line which is currently on constraint is the Onehunga line only because it’s a single line, not a double line, if they upgraded it wouldn’t be such a problem.

          What I have previously have stated mutiple times is that Onehunga line should be extended and the Southern line should get 4 line along from Newmarket to Penrose along with adding an a line to the airport. Along with Kaianga Ora houses along either Greenlane – Ellerslie area or Onehunga since their both out of touch areas and I need of a spruce up!

          If you phase out when constructing these projects right you’ll be able to achieve all these project before 2030 which is something we should be aiming!

          Doing a light rail line from Mount Roskill or New Lynn to either Penrose or Ellerslie will not be feasible whatsoever or worth the ride, plus you’ve already got the 66 bus for that so you don’t really need.

        9. @Jeeza my plan would be to add another line since it’s singular line at the moment and another platform for it with a roof since they don’t have especially when it rains.

        10. Aaron, he’s talking about it needing to be a (expensive) flying junction, so as not to severely restrict the southern line that will be carrying way more people / trains from further south.

        11. I was talking about the junction not the line. A level junction won’t handle 6tph on the airport line and 12tph on the Southern line it would need to be grade separated, which would be no mean feat at Penrose.

        12. @Jeeza and @Jack you are able to move the station up to where Great South Road bridge is at since you would have no logistical problems otherwise. You would be able to cater 12 tph by doing this cause of combined connection of the Southern Line (plus Airport) and Onehunga Line. It wouldn’t be such a expensive at all, it would only cost few million to construction a new design for Penrose. The current state of Penrose station isn’t very good tbh, it really needs a revamp like similar to Otahuhu or New Lynn type of station.

        13. Aaron – are you suggesting trains will only run 6tph on the Airport line? No one is going to spend the money required for this new line for this level of frequency.

        14. @Jeeza that is not what I’m suggesting at all, for airport it should be 3 tph, Onehunga line 3 tph and Southern line 6 tph.

          Heavy rail Airport line would better than light rail since you would travel on a road likely go 50km/h on it, with heavy rail you would be able to go 100+ km/h, not only that you would have enough capacity for passengers, room available and not have to stand up, have somewhere to stow your luggage so you don’t have to hold it and also it would faster journey to get to the CBD.

          The cost of it would be drastically reduced compared to light rail and would be quite the bargain!

      1. Lmao bro, you would even know velocity vs time which equals speed, oh yeah which means your slow learner! Better get a wriggle on there m8, you’ve got catching up to do!!!!

        Clearly you haven’t been reading into what the project involves, how much this project is going to cost overall, how much is going to accumulate overtime, is this even viable, is this going work for everyone in the whole city, will we even have the resources and how long the project will take.

        One of the aims of this project is to create better public transport mode to get to the airport within 1 hour timeframe, light rail simply won’t the case here given it will have to travel 50km/h along the city centre, Dominion Rd or Sandringham Rd, some parts of south Auckland and some parts on the way to the airport which is workable at all and won’t be fit for purpose for airport users.

        Both the airport bus and route 38 are not good transport for people and visitors of this city and you know it! Heavy rail should be replacing it since it won’t have to deal with traffic going their especially during peak hours or seasons given its capacity to transport passengers in a more time efficient way than a light rail transport would since it would be require to go on road and would deem to be useless.

        1. “Both the airport bus and route 38 are not good transport for people and visitors of this city”

          SOLUTION. Take the AirportLink orange bus from the airport, and it takes you to the existing Heavy Rail station at Puhinui. Job done

          PS. What is the fascination with an express PT service from downtown Auckland to the Airport. Only 4% of trips to the Airport start in downtown Auckland.

          “The fastest and most efficient way of providing a high quality rapid transit connection between the city centre and Airport is through improved bus infrastructure between the Airport and Puhinui train station (with connection to Southern line trains) and an upgrade of that station to a key bus/rail interchange.”
          – ATAP update to reflect faster growth, August 2017

        2. @Bus Driver – exactly. If something like the Regional Rapid Rail proposal was put in place, you could have non-stop express service from Britomart to Puhinui, and even with that transfer the whole City-Airport journey would be no more than 30 minutes.

          Plus given the whole COVID and climate change situations, will air travel really be bouncing back that fast? CC2M light rail is primarily to serve the Isthmus area and Mangere; the A2B busway will connect the Airport surrounds to the East Auckland suburbs where the most airport workers appear to live.

          That both transit lines will access the Airport should be seen as more of a bonus than anything – especially at a time when we should actively be reducing air travel.

        1. If the rail network is properly improved, and the trains run as fast as the CAF specifications said they would (+ shorter dwell times), the City-Puhinui leg of the Southern line would take about 30 mins. Add on the Airport Link bus leg and that translates to about 40-45 mins total from city centre to airport; comparable to light rail.

          Frequencies should be much better than they currently are post-CRL (trains every 5 minutes between Puhinui and the city), and the same should go for the Airport Link as it evolves into the Airport-Botany busway. Eventually transferring would be a lot more seamless, with a guaranteed wait time of no more than 5 minutes.

          Add on a potential future “regional rapid rail” service to Hamilton (non stop between Britomart and Puhinui) and you could cut the City-Airport journey to 30 minutes.

        2. Andy – I wasn’t talking about what “is”, I’m talking about what could be with sufficient improvements to the rail network post-CRL and the completion of a fully separated Airport-Botany RTN

        3. Andy – based on current timetables/AT’s rather subpar operating plans for post-CRL, perhaps, but with a better optimized rail network such as Greater Auckland’s CFN 2.0 it would be perfectly possible to have 9-12TPH at peak on both the Southern and Eastern lines – giving a total of 18-24TPH (every 2.5-3.3 minutes) between Puhinui and the City.

          The Airport to Botany mass transit (either busway, trackless tram, or light rail) is pretty much confirmed at this point.

          Even in the meantime, you could very easily increase the frequencies of the Airport Link bus service from every 10 minutes to every 5 minutes, reducing the wait time transferring to and from trains.

          I don’t understand what argument you’re trying to make. It would be impossible to build a heavy rail branch in a shorter timeframe than A2B or CC2M, even if it were the best option (which it isn’t, that’s been proven many times over the last 5 years).

  21. Underground is the only suitable option. Roads in Auckland are too narrow for cheaper plans. The minister has the honesty to come straight out to state “removal of all car parking” with the over ground plan.
    Above ground has absolutely no realistic plan for drop offs, taxi’s etc.
    No plan for tradesmen. Ridiculous hi priority for bike lanes on the assumption people will actually use them in useful numbers. Already struggling shops will be in for a hard ride. Pushbikers are not known for being shoppers.
    More focus needs to made on small electric vehicles. No emissions, and prices will come down on EVs. Get the gas guzzlers off the road. And all those smelly high emission diesel vehicles, an issue any govt. will not adequately address.
    Roads, including roadside parking, are a public asset, and as such all members of Auckland public should have a proper say. AT’s “consultations” are a joke. Most people are unaware they even happen.
    So.. underground and proper referendum on such important issues please.

    1. We are talking about some car parks on Dominion Road outside peak hours where it is bus lane. I can’t imagine many people drive to say Balmoral expecting to get a park on Dominion Road and if I don’t then just turn back around and go home; they just find a park elsewhere. There are many side streets for example.
      Drops offs, taxis, tradesmen, etc can stop on side streets. We already have many arterial roads in Auckland with no parking on either side.
      Yes roads are a public asset, and the public who are walking or cycling on them should be able to do so in safety.

    2. Straight from the ZB talking points list. Suppose you could snap your fingers and turn every car into an EV. Done. Now everyone has an EV. There’s still just as much congestion as there was before, it’s just EVs instead of ICE cars. Time saved? El Zilcho.

      Why is it that every other major city in the world can figure out in-corridor light rail, yet NZers are so determined to have every inch of a road corridor set aside for cars, no matter how congested and slow-moving it becomes.

    3. Pretty much every one of your assumptions is provably wrong.

      There is a plan for tradesmen, disability parking, timed paid parking etc.

      “removal of all car parking” with the over ground plan.
      they’re not removing all car parking. They’re removing the parking on the arterial sure, but on almost every arterial business area, that actually represents a small fraction of where the customers park. K-road was 2%. Any improvement to any other mode using that space would bring in way more people than the 2.5m on each side of the road those cars were using up.

      People on bikes are proven to spend more locally and be more valuable to local shops than high throughput roads funneling cars to malls. Increasing the convenience of cars overall has basically been the downfall of local shops.

      Where bike infrastructure is good, people use it, compounding if you have more and more of it.

      Ridiculous high priority? in every one of these plans, cars have vastly more road space than bikes, I don’t how you could argue that at all.

      Roads, including roadside parking, are a public asset, and as such all members of Auckland public should have a proper say

      They do, every time there is an election. The point of a democracy is to elect leaders who make decisions, not to have referendums on every single detail. The general public is uninformed, you elect people who will be more informed, know more facts to make decisions. There are plenty of things that the public were clearly wrong on looking back, and the government going against the populist position was the right thing to do.

      1. ‘ There is a plan for tradesmen’

        Is there? I’d be curious to know what it is.
        Not that I plan to ever work in Auckland again it’s already far to much of a pain in the arse to get around.
        But still curious.

        1. “plan” might have been generousish.
          If we’re talking about the LR corridor, here will absolutely be many more loading zones, and some parking up every side street. If they combine it with better enforcement, and a wide scale parking permit scheme, it would do wonders if they implement it right. A business owner, like a builder would pay a decent amount in a yearly fee for near guaranteed parking I’m sure.

          But I also genuinely don’t understand why this is such a problem in the first place. Most houses have off street parking, most businesses have off street parking, if they don’t then its pretty likely a built up building that you could leave tools and materials locked in. Other countries have this well figured out in dense urban areas with far less parking per capita, or are we some special snowflakes?
          Why don’t trades drop a lockbox and materials off with stuff they need at a low traffic time, and take some other transit in for most of the job? You wouldn’t even have to have everyone do this, have someone with a site / company vehicle if you need to shoot off for forgotten stuff from bunnings.

          Do most tradies take jobs and have no plan for parking until they show up on site?

        2. Before I quit working in Auckland metro (as a sub contractor) I could be working on any of up to 6 different sites in an average week.
          Sometimes on up to 3 sites in one day.
          So no. That ain’t gonna work.

        3. I have worked with tradies in our apartment building in Queen st. No service lift, no off-street parking, and almost no on-street parking

          The average tradie expects to park the ute on the property they are working at, but you find the ones that are experienced at CBD work, and they have it worked out.

          Start early (6am), bring in tools and materials, then move vehicle to nearest car parking building. Have breakfast/coffee, before using power tools, then knock off early.

        4. Either way a tradesman can’t park on Dominion Rd for a chunk of the working day at the moment anyway. They’ve obviously figured out ways around this.

    4. No, Auckland’s arterials ARE wide enough for surface light rail. We know that, because they used to have it.

    5. “Above ground has absolutely no realistic plan for drop offs, taxi’s”

      Interesting, as no accurate schematics or plans have yet been released for any of the options. SOLUTION, Taxis ranks could be positioned on side streets.

  22. Given the relatively small difference in cost between LM and tunnelled LR it would be silly to not go for the higher capacity, faster, and better (fully automated) LM option.
    I suspect that the actual cost difference is mostly in the additional tunnelling through Mangere town centre which neither LR options do. Is it really necessary to tunnel through Mangere? Plenty of space in the road corridor there to surface run and trench/elevate where needed.
    Still the prices for all options do seem to be very excessive especially considering that Sydney has just built a full longer metro including harbour tunnel for roughly the same amount.

  23. “We know that this is what Aucklanders want, and I’m determined we’ll get there.”

    You don’t know what Aucklanders want because they haven’t been asked

  24. Every thanks to a busy Minister for taking the time to present a thoughtful post. The government can now look at the choices and make a decision which should survive cross-party debate. Rather than look for conspiracies and ulterior motives, we would do better to accept that the Unit have done their job well. Even if we don’t like the prices, we should accept that they are at least comparable between options in the current property and construction climate. Only if significant costs sit in different items that change in different directions in the future would the comparative costs mislead a decision.
    The Minister and Government are providing leadership here – whether Auckland at large can be persuaded to provide “followship” is what we need to work on.

  25. One thing I completely agree with the minister on is whatever is decided we should get behind it. My preference is the surface option but if light metro is chosen I doubt it is something Aucklanders will regret in 50 years time.

    1. For the sake of 10% more you can get full light metro with all of its benefits… I just don’t see the rationale for tunnelled LR. It’s a bit like building a busway but putting only vans in it rather than buses.

      1. The light rail vehicles are about the same size as the metro vehicles. So it’s like building a busway and putting normal buses on it, rather than building a busway that can only take special buses that can’t ever run on the road.

        I frankly can’t understand why you would do light metro at all when the capacity and speed is the same. All you end up doing is guaranteeing you can never run at street level anywhere on your network, even where that makes the most sense or saves a heap of money.

    2. This

      I want light rail in Auckland.

      Ideally surface / tunnel mix (tunneling only when absolutely required), but ultimately the final form doesn’t matter so much as having something actually underway than endless analysis paralysis

      I don’t even think Light Metro would be the end of LR/Trams on the surface. Over time, I think there will be a healthy mix of heavy rail, light rail, metro, bus rapid transport etc. Having worked in KL, they have all these systems (most of which intersect at KL Sentral) and monorail as well

  26. It was mentioned that this will eventually continue to the NW and NS, if that is the case then tunnelled metro it is.
    I also like the dominion Rd street car light LR and believe more street car style LR lines should be added to better cover the central Auckland suburbs similar to the old tram lines, I think this will happen anyway.
    But it is well known that that street car type LR is a very poor choice if you are serving the outer reaches of the city.
    There are systems where street cars are mixed with larger metro trains, where different trains use different parts of the network but all share the central city platforms.
    And this has been found to be very problematic and unreliable, so work is underway to separate the 2 systems.
    I think we should just build the dominion Rd street car now and worry about the airport, north west and NS later.

    1. “if you are serving the outer reaches of the city.”

      Let stop thing about a point to point journey from downtown Auckland to some place in South Auckland. The project is not about serving the outer reaches of Auckland, it is about providing frequent, reliable PT to the central isthmus of Auckland, thereby reducing the number of buses and the reliance on cars. The LRT project will enable people to be able to move along the route, AND enable them to connect to other elements of the existing PT network. This is explained at:

  27. Thanks for the engagement, and agree with the vision. Think this site should only be one of a large number of factors for consultation though. I don’t think trams down Dominion Rd is really something that A) is politically worth it and B) would be accepted by the people on Dominion Rd given how they’ve reacted so far. While working with KO along Sandringham in either option for tunnelled seems to make more sense in terms of benefits.

    Re Mangere, why could the light metro option not stop off there rather than going past? The light metro option seemed the one that stacked up the best in the chairs study.

    I still think NW terminating at Mercury Lane until patronage grows is the easier option to stage/have something built, especially with it travelling along mostly NZTA land alongside the motorway.

      1. Light Rail is too broad, it has everything from light metro going fast to a tram sharing the street with other traffic going slow. Hence me splitting out Light Rail into trams and Rapid Transit.

        For the surface level LR along Dominion Rd, it sounds like a tram with basic priority rather than rapid transit. Trams are great for areas where you are replacing buses (stopping frequently, distribution within areas) but not so much in the rapid transit arena (infrequent stops, area to area), where you want less frequent stops/faster speeds/grade separated.

        For the original project (AT replacing their overcrowded buses on Dominion Rd/reducing buses in city centre) trams were the correct call. And eventually they’ll be needed. But the project has changed, and now its a strategic rapid transit route, so it shouldn’t be trams.

        1. Cheers for trying to implant your own definition of tram and apply it to what is proposed for Auckland, but its not needed, thanks.

          Stick to what the experts use. Your reckons will just have to fall in line.

        2. I agree, light rail is to broad and often think the term light rail shouldn’t be used either due to it leading people to believe the system will be of lower quality then the current HR network.
          Light rail means nothing other than a rail system that cannot take heavy freight.
          So what are we building?
          Light rail ????
          Are we going with the street car LR or metro.

        3. From the ALR website:

          OPTION 1: Light Rail Dominion Road

          Modern tram on city streets and follows the motorway.

        4. Like the ALR report, the context there is the vehicle, not the amenity.

          The term “Tram” is too often used to describe a sub-optimal service, to influence a preference for another option (rail or otherwise). It’s unhelpful because its incorrect.

        5. It depends on where exactly you are. In Europe, if it runs on street level on steel tracks, and crosses intersections at grade, it is called a “tram”. Trams may run on dedicated tram lanes (i.e. not mixed with general car traffic).

          Those things running as the Northern Express are still called “bus”, even though buses have a reputation of being slow. It has not stopped people from using it.

          So I wouldn’t worry about the term “tram”.

        6. Not all of Europe by any means. In cologne, Hannover, Stuttgart and a lot of other places the light rail lines are called Stadtbahn, which means something like ‘city rail’.

          This is different from Straßenbahn which is for normal trams, it means street rail.

    1. “I still think NW terminating at Mercury Lane until patronage grows is the easier option to stage/have something built”

      Is there an argument that it may never go any further than that? Aotea will be, in effect, the “central” station – busiest on the network, with transfers in all directions. Maybe it terminates there?

      1. I meant go no further than Aotea, so just build to there (I assume its currently planned to go all the way down to Britomart)

        1. There is a decent case for stopping at Aotea instead of Britomart, but eventually there will be other routes to the North Shore etc. and it’s more efficient for through running to have two lines connected to one another. But not a short term concern.

          Reason why Mercury rather than Aotea initially is cost. Up until Mercury Lane the route is essentially easy/NZTA land, and sure there is difficulty with stations/threading through bridges and the like, but there isn’t the local business groups/residents to the same extent. Also Mercury Lane has transfers in all directions as well, albeit not with the same bus links that Aotea would have.

        2. Any future LR to the winterless North will probably connect at Aotea Station, as it is already being future proofed for that connection. once the CRL is completed Aotea Station will become busier than Britomart Station, and the sign outside Britamrt can be changed from “Britomart Transport Centre” to “Britomart Station”

          At the same time AT could put the words “Train Station” at the end of all of the current train station signage. ie Manukau Train Station, Kingsland Train Station, etc

        3. Yeah, I was going to make that point. I can’t see another NS link (other than bridge and next crossing) in a couple of lifetimes. Hence no need to go to Britomart? Everything will go through Aotea.

          So yes, pausing at K’Rd makes sense if the plan was to go all the way to Britomart, but if its not, just build to Aotea, take the cost-savings and start the next one?

        4. The difference between Mercury Lane and Aotea is over a kilometre of bored tunnel through some of the most expensive real estate in the country. It won’t be cheap, and there will be a lot of compensation/objections/the like to be dealt with.

          It makes sense eventually to do, but not at first, as it’ll add dramatically to the costs without dramatically adding to the benefits.

          Better to terminate at Mercury Lane first, then to time the K Rd to Aotea sections completion when the Northshore bit is started or when K Rd maxes out, both of which won’t happen for quite a while.

        5. By stopping at Aotea you have already saved 100s of millions without really compromising the usefulness of the line.

          Could you stop earlier at K Rd and save more? Yes, but you have impacted the usefulness of the line from Day 1 in order to do so. You shouldnt look at Aotea being more costly than stopping at K Rd, but rather Aotea costing less than going through to Britomart.

          And if cost was really an issue, we would not be pushing LM….

        6. Agreed about Aotea being cheaper than Britomart, but I totally expect it to be a insane difference between Mercury Lane and Pt Chev (or possibly even further) and building from Mercury Lane to Aotea or Britomart.

          Obviously in a perfect world they’d build everything at the same time as needed, but I think to get a full network built, you’ve got to build the first bit drama free (like the Northern Busway), and I think venturing into the CBD (and past businesses in suburbs) seems to be fairly drama filled, as shown by the CRL experience etc.

          Basically, I think the constraint is always political will (not money), and I think going to Aotea might be a step too far as I don’t see groups going quietly. NW has the advantage of mostly drama free along the route (unlike CC2M)

  28. Looking at the Potential Future Rapid Transit Network (2050+) it is not strategically robust nor efficient to have Heavy Rail – BRT – Light Rail (Puhinui to CBD via Airport) and force passengers through 2 mode changes and interchange delays.

    The strategic rail network, even if 2050+, should allow for light rail to extend to Puhinui.

    This Puhinui-Airport-CBD route also provides strategic redundancy should the main rail line be blocked for any reason.

    1. Why would someone going from Puhinui to the CBD go via the airport? That doesn’t make any sense and would take longer than just taking the train directly

  29. “The strategic rail network, even if 2050+, should allow for light rail to extend to Puhinui.”

    I thought it did, The A2B line? Or did you mean from the SW?

      1. Emotional opposition aside there’s also a matter of experience. In my case I do question surface light rail or even tunneled light rail. Partly this is because I have little experience with it, since my experience mostly in KL has only been what we call here light metro.

        But when I look at the travel times, frequency etc for surface light rail they don’t help assuage my concerns, especially when I consider what puts me off using public transport. And I say this as someone who isn’t generally particularly busy, only started to drive well into my 30s, and has gone all the way to Pukekohe on the train and done other things (e.g. cross town buses West to North and West to South) to explore he network.

        I think we have to consider how we can make public transport something people want to use like in many other countries, rather than something people only use because they’re forced to. Outside of peak times with congestion (or intentionally making it difficult as some people suggest), it’s going to be difficult to compete with direct connections via private cars in terms of travel times, but IMO it shouldn’t be so far off that people don’t want to use it.

        Yes my experience is different from many, we definitely do have to consider safety issues and perceptions and I acknowledge it isn’t something I have much experience with having traveled, cycled and walked without concern at odd hours in empty and sometimes dark streets etc. I don’t have accessibility issues and have never used a pram or traveled with kids. (I did help my my mum who used a walker for a brief time, but we only used cars and footpaths.) But I also feel other countries have found ways to deal with these issues.

        Ultimately I don’t think I know enough confidently say what’s the best option and frankly I don’t think many people in this discussion do either, so that’s why I hope the government does their job and does a proper evaluation and makes the best decision, informed by public feedback but also expert opinion.

        1. P.S. For clarity there have been times when I’ve avoided going somewhere or taking a certain route maybe taking a longer one for safety reasons although sometimes this has been because I’m paranoid about loose dogs more than people. Also there have been times when I’ve wanted to cycle to the train station but haven’t in part due to concerns that my bike wouldn’t be there when I came back at midnight. And I would be far more concerned about doing some of the things I’ve done here in KL. So I wouldn’t say I’ve never had safety concerns. However I appreciate it’s at a far, far smaller scale than for others especially women.

        2. “But when I look at the travel times, frequency etc for surface light rail they don’t help assuage my concerns”

          Could you clarify further? I thought frequency was similar and that there was only something like 8mins difference (end to end, which only a small percentage of people would be doing). And that didn’t take into account the many minutes getting up and down to an underground station, some of which will have to be very deep?

  30. Having now read this I could not help but question a number of things that lead me to believe this proposal is overly complicated to the point that nothing will happen.

    1, I voted in 2017 for the light rail to Mt Roskill by 2021, thinking thus was a well thought out policy. Little did I know it was a throw away line because there was no plan.

    2, Why on streets that formerly had light rail do you need to aquire housing?

    3. Why on streets that formerly had light rail do you need to take car parking when both road and rail safely existed side by side before that, with parking?

    It looks like the disruption inbuilt into the plan is so extensive and expensive and will be an all round worse outcome once done, it will never happen.

  31. “In short, if the preferred option of the Unit is not yours, that isn’t evidence of a plot to undermine the project or embedded prejudices as has been suggested at times, it is simply that reasonable people looking at a complex problem can come to different views.” Precisely! It is embarrassing how often grown adults who would normally snigger at those peddling conspiracies turn around and peddle their own bizarre theories.

    1. It’s not conspiracies that are alleged, but yes embedded prejudices. Scratch the surface and there are a lot of assumptions and prejudices in the process that can only be ‘solved’ by spending billions of dollars.

      For example, the idea that the Kaianga Ora site at wesley must have a station in the middle of it, that alone has caused the team to assume the line should run out past Sandringham and added five billion to the cost to build a tunnel out that way from town. How could you not have that prejudice when you make that property developer part of the establishment team?

      That’s a hell of a lot of money to save the future residents of one particular development a bus or bike trip to the train, while all the other residents and developments will have to do that regardless.

      1. John D: I disagree there are no conspiracies alleged, a look at some other comments in this thread will show they do exist. And your posts demonstrates why they are so harmful. You’re right there are many good questions to be asked about assumptions and prejudices involved in the process. But it’s far harder to have a good discussion when people get distracted by those claiming it’s something more than simple prejudices and assumptions but instead people acting in bad faith to damage or prevent the project from going ahead. It understandably makes those who are being so accused less willing to engage in discussion.

        Frankly it’s also IMO silly because whatever mistakes were made with the Northern Pathway, selling a $800 million short cycle & pedestrian bridge especially in New Zealand given our current cycling and walking culture, is far harder than a $16.3 billion public transport project covering a large area. This doesn’t mean it’s the right idea, or you won’t get some similar negative reactions or that the level of opposition won’t end up being so great that it’ll be cancelled, simply that there are IMO only limited comparisons that can be made in how things may play out. I mean even accepting that there’s a lot more to be distracted now than there was when the Northern Pathway bridge proposal came out, it’s IMO hard to disagree that the reactions have been fairly different.

        1. The situation is far less benign than you’re making out.

          There’s a paradigm shift required in transport planning. It’s a major shift, and will involve overhauling the practices of many people in the sector. The shift must happen, because the car dependent system being continued in these decisions being made today is heading us nowhere good. The very reason our emissions have risen more than 40% in the same period the emissions of other cities have dropped more than 40%, is because we are stuck in an unsustainable paradigm.

          The way transport is planned is costing us dearly. The Light Rail project, the Drury stations, the Eastern Busway are all examples where the cost has been too high due to out-of-date transport modelling and planning. Solutions can be cheaper, better, more regenerative, and less disruptive.

          If the paradigm shift was made in the sector, the active modes bridge – at less than 10% of what the Walking and Cycling budget *should* be for the decade, according to the UN – would be appropriate for the network that the other 90% would be able to develop in the decade.

          So is resistance to the paradigm shift just due to “assumptions and prejudices”…? There are plenty of those, but there is also determined resistance to change. And some of it is ugly stuff. Would I go so far as calling it a conspiracy? No, because I don’t think the people causing the problems see it in that way. But I think it’s serious, and to tackle the issue, we “will require an overt and historically aware political program of research and action.”

  32. There is a misleading regarding his statement about labour “kicking this off” National had plans underway and a budget allocated before getting the boot in 2016.

    “Greater Auckland” needs to make sure they are apolitical especially when they let politicians post and fact check.

    1. Can you please provide some evidence that National had plans underway for light rail and a budget allocated, I’ve not seen any.

      We do know:
      – Jan-15 Auckland Transport announced their plans for light rail. National opposed them.
      – Sep-16 the first ATAP was released with a Dominion Rd line but said it was Mass Rapid Transit and could be bus or light rail
      – Oct-16 Phil Goff was elected on a platform of light rail
      – Mar-17 they had a study done on bus options
      – Aug-17 ATAP was revised with updated population forecasts. Dom Rd MRT brought into first decade but no decision on mode and no funding. National did admit light rail would happen eventually but didn’t commit to it in the short term
      – Oct-17 Labour becomes the govt and hands the project to Waka Kotahi to deliver. Notably, it wasn’t on Nationals election policy either

      As for politicians, we’ve said politicians from other parties are welcome to provide guest posts.

      1. See parliament questions Twyford to Bridges 2016 that shows a clear early intent and plan in place. Labour helped accelerate this through political pressure but their influence is overstated in this post.

        I feel uncomfortable with the government using media platforms for self congratulatory posts and politicising of infrastructure projects. They should be held to account and fact checked or else this will be taken as correct. Labour appear to have good intentions but they are yet to achieve anything of merit.

  33. Good post. And definitely I’d be standing by whatever project they choose because something is still better than nothing but it only convinces me more that the obvious option here is Light Rail.

    1. 1. Your comment entirely ignores the fact that buses along Dominion Rd and in the city centre have been jammed up & struggling with demand since 5-6 years ago. They certainly won’t be able to handle intensification on the Isthmus (necessary to make Auckland a more livable city and confront the housing crisis) so rapid transit to Mt Roskill is just an important component as rapid transit to Mangere. Even if you were building a heavy rail extension from Onehunga, you would still need to build light rail down Dominion Rd.

      2. Heavy rail is NOT a cheap and easy solution as so many of its proponents claim. The Onehunga line (including Penrose junction) would have to be extensively rebuilt as a grade-separated double-track line, which would cost at least half a billion dollars and likely more. Then you’d have to build a well-engineered viaduct over SH20 and SH20A, and a long 1+km tunnel into the airport itself since the motorway widening & airport weren’t designed with heavy rail in mind. Not to mention stations at Favona, Montgomerie Rd, and the Airport Business Quarter might not get built with heavy rail. And that doesn’t even include light rail to Mt Roskill.

      3. Future-proofing. You cannot easily extend heavy rail to the North Shore – there’s no room for a junction with the CRL at Britomart, and the Northern Busway is too steep and too lightly built (but it could handle light rail or light metro). Ditto for the Northwest.

      4. A new, second rail system for Auckland enables higher frequencies and better service on all RTN lines. Trains could run to Swanson, Manukau, & Pukekohe every 5 minutes at peak, and light rail could run to the North Shore, Northwest, and Airport every 5 minutes at peak too. More convenience, more capacity, more redundancy.

        1. “Heavy rail would be 70% cheaper”

          Yeah, nah I’m gonna need a source for that, not figures snatched out of thin air.

          Are you taking into account the cost of double-tracking and grade-separating the Onehunga branch? (costed at $>500 million in 2016). Or the as-yet-uncosted improvements to Penrose junction, necessary to handle 6-12tph headed both south and to the Airport?

          Are you taking into account the cost of building an elevated viaduct over SH20 and SH20A between Mangere Bridge and Kirkbride Rd, plus a tunnel through poor-quality waterlogged/reclaimed ground from Montgomerie Rd to the Airport terminal? (costed at >$2 billion in 2016, and $3.5 billion by National in 2020)

          I doubt extending the Onehunga Branch Line, at this stage, would cost anything less than $4 billion – and that’s without adding on the necessary light rail along Dominion Rd, which could push that up to $5-6 billion.

          The government’s figures for light rail seem wildly overinflated, and I presume they are including the costs of land procurement and urban regeneration in the project. Based on overseas standards for light rail construction, surface light rail (excluding surrounding redevelopment) should cost $75-150 million per km, translating to a cost of $2-4 billion for the CC2M corridor (in line with the 2016-2020 cost estimates).

          Underground light metro costs $250-500 million per km overseas, translating to a cost of $6-14 billion for the CC2M corridor. It should not be confused with surface light rail – which is unfortunately what anti-light rail types like the PTUA and NZ First have been misrepresenting surface light rail as.

        2. One of the primary concerns that have been raised by the community in Mangere (and the ALR group) have been the inevitable gentrification as the area goes from transport poverty, to great transport.
          One of the key mitigations will be to also upgrade transport in other areas of the city at the same time. The upgrade of transport on Dominion road will lessen the load of development on Mangere. Whatever we do, there needs to be a lot more accompanying upgrades for other areas, other than just Mangere.

          And while the city to airport traveller trips are not very important, the airport business park is a major employer right on Mangere’s doorstep. A good connection would improve a lot of commutes / lives. and would be one of the busiest stations / set of stations on the line.

          I think your estimates of the cost of expanding the rail corridor / tracking through from penrose to newmarket to be laughably low. The corridor there is much more constrained than in the south, and the land an order of magnitude more valuable. Not to mention that kind of capacity really needs an upgraded Newmarket junction with some grade seperated stuff, like the under construction Mt Eden one. That would be an exceptionally expensive project given the apartment buildings over and right against the current rail corridor.
          All the previous estimates of costs for projects like the Onehunga line double tracking have been spitballs, and/or are so out of date as to be useless. Construction costs have ballooned out of control, light rail looks like its just more expensive but the same would apply to starting any major project. They will face similar costs, if not more because of the more constrained geometry.

        1. Nope.

          There is a proficient photographic record of Dominion Rd buses being overcrowded and jammed as far back as 2015. Buses will certainly not be able to cope with greater urban density on the isthmus; light rail will be the best fit for Dominion Rd, Sandringham Rd, etc. in the future.

          Simply “providing a regular bus connection” from Mt Roskill to Onehunga does literally nothing to increase PT capacity between Mt Roskill and the CBD. (And isn’t it ironic that those who whinge about having a “fast direct Airport train” are happy to suggest unnecessary transfers and low-capacity solutions for other parts of the city?)

          Light rail is necessary down Dominion Rd, fact. And since heavy rail would be technically complex and twice as expensive as light rail between Onehunga and the Airport, it makes sense to build light rail all the way to the Airport too – this has been the case for more than 5 years.

      1. “He been really undemocratic about this project by not conducting a through concept of what heavy rail link might look like and shown it to the community. It just shows you how un trust worthy Labour are!”

        I hate to put a spanner in your right wing conspiracy theories, but the full analysis, that included HR and why it was not the right solution, was done at least 5yrs ago, if not 7 when National was in power. It’s why the discussion has moved to LRT or LM.

        1. @Jared O – If you read that assessment you’ll see that there are several good arguments against heavy rail:

          – not solving bus congestion in the CBD and Isthmus
          – not allowing for future lines to the North Shore and Northwest
          – not enabling the same widespread urban uplift as light rail
          – greater disruption during construction

          Additionally – the SMART report of 2016 found that light rail to the Airport leveraged off a Dominion Rd line would be less expensive and more beneficial than extending the Onehunga branch.

        1. Well, we have to invest in a solution sometime. Auckland already loses $1-2 billion each year due to traffic congestion, and that’s certainly not going to change because of COVID.

          Light rail *is* empirically better – this has been explained time and time again over the last 5 years. It solves the Isthmus bus crowding and brings mass transit to Mangere in a single project (not possible with heavy rail); it enables higher frequencies on the whole RTN regardless of mode; and it enables easy future extensions to the North Shore and Northwest.

          A surface light rail Airport line should cost $2.5-4 billion, based on overseas LRT costs. It’s possible that the government has bundled the costs of redeveloping & intensifying along the CC2M corridor with the light rail costs.

          Tunneled options (the $14-16 billion dollar options) should not be considered at this stage, as they will lead to poorer outcomes for the Isthmus. Neither should any road widening for surface light rail.

        2. Some kind of project has to go ahead and it will have to be majority funded by central government. If we were talking about s new motorway then council wouldn’t spend anything, Wellington picks up the tab. That’s the problem with public transport investment

        3. ….so then add the cost of the Dominion Road Light Rail, which you still have to build regardless of how the Onehunga to airport bit is handled. You get how marginal costs work, right?

        4. @Stalion – nope. $1-2 billion is wildly unrealistic – it’s based purely on the cost per km of a short surface level branch like the Manukau Line. It doesn’t take into account double-tracking or grade-separating the Onehunga Branch Line, rebuilding Penrose Junction, crossing the Manukau Harbour on a new bridge, building a viaduct over the Southwestern Motorway, or tunneling under the Airport’s future second runway and into the terminal complex.

          I doubt extending the Onehunga Branch Line, at this stage, would cost anything less than $4 billion – and that’s without adding on the necessary light rail along Dominion Rd, which could push that up to $5-6 billion – and that’s not taking into account inflation or cost overruns like what happened with the CRL.

          By being fixated on the City-Airport “speed”, you’re also not taking into account the benefits that light rail would bring to the Isthmus. Light rail will enable huge amounts of intensification in areas not accessible by heavy rail (Balmoral, Mt Roskill), and will also make it much easier to build new light rail lines to the North Shore and Northwest, and operate those at high frequency.

        1. What Auckland *needs* is for people to stop having such an obsession with “fast trains to the airport”.

          This has been proven time and time again. Light rail offers better opportunities for urban regeneration & placemaking, can replace crowded buses in the CBD and on the Isthmus, and is more economical to build than underground metro or heavy rail.

          Light rail ain’t slow either. Overseas light rail systems have average speeds of 30-40km/h, exactly the same as the average speed of Auckland’s heavy rail lines.

          Light rail is perfectly capable of being part of an efficient rapid transit network for Auckland.

        2. David do you understand what an “average speed” is? It’s the distance of a transit line divided by its end-to-end travel time including station stops.

          This is the methodology that finds that the average end-to-end speeds of light rail lines overseas are quite similar to the average end-to-end speeds of Auckland’s heavy rail.

        1. That’s a overly-simplistic strawman argument. Poverty is far more complex, and I’d say has more to do with the provision and quality of social welfare and public services.

          It’s blatantly obvious that your take is driven by anti-light rail, anti-intensification sentiment.

        2. Reynold – that’s not a problem with light rail. That’s a problem with a housing system that’s oriented entirely around investors and profits, and with an insufficient welfare system that makes people dependent by not granting them a true living wage. I am disabled, and let me tell you the benefit’s not nearly enough to cover one person’s weekly expenses for basic needs (food, rent, etc.) The benefit as it stands in NZ does not “fetch people out of the problem.”

          Look at the Scandinavian countries. Finland has a decreasing homeless rate because – surprise surprise! – the government spends money on providing housing for disadvantaged people, allowing them to focus their attention on improving their lives rather than merely surviving day-to-day.

          NZ should be returning to the state housing model, reinstating a Ministry of Works for large public infrastructure projects (including light rail), and pursuing something along the lines of a universal basic income or Nordic model/Michael Joseph Savage welfare system.

          I reiterate: poverty in NZ does not solely hinge on whether light rail is built or not, as you implied.

    1. $9 billion for surface light rail is fishy. Overseas costs for LRT construction are $60-150 million per km, which should result in a total cost of between $1.5 billion & $4 billion for the Airport light rail. That is why I suspect the government has added the cost of extensive land acquisition along Dominion Rd; either for the purpose of widening the road corridor (which isn’t necessary) or for public sector urban regeneration similar to Wynyard Quarter.

      Light rail wouldn’t be overcrowded. LRVs can be coupled together to form 99-120m long consists carrying 600-900 passengers. With those running every 4 minutes at peak light rail could carry up to 13,500 people per hour per direction – that’s the same as 9-car heavy rail trains every 5 minutes.

        1. Where are you getting your capacities from?

          Sydney’s 66m light rail sets carry 450 passengers. Seattle’s 120m sets carry 800-900. An 80m light metro set can carry 600-800 passengers.

          You are wrong about LR or LM speeds. Both modes are capable of 80-100km/h.

          And you’re missing the point that 110+km/h top speeds are utterly useless in an urban environment where stations are spaced on average <2km apart. There's no advantage in running Auckland's heavy rail trains faster than 90km/h most of the time, north of Papakura.

        2. Ian – you are the one spreading misinformation here.

          Alstom’s Citadis Spirit LRV has a top speed of 105km/h. Los Angeles’ light rail has a top speed of 110km/h. Seattle’s Link light rail vehicles have a top speed of 90km/h – what you are quoting is the limit for the street-running sections only.

          And that’s beside the point – top speed doesn’t really matter that much when you have stations every 1-2km; in fact there’s no advantage to running mass transit faster than 80km/h with that spacing.

    1. That’s incorrect.

      Buses, even biarticulated ones, cannot match light rail’s capacity. The longest buses carry up to 200 passengers; the longest light rail sets can carry 600. With 2 minute frequencies (the maximum feasible for either buses or light rail without substantial grade separation) light rail would move up to 75% more people than buses – taking into account 6+ storey intensification on the isthmus and that extra capacity would be vital.

      Buses require a lot of space at each end of the route to turn around or layover. Light rail doesn’t – the LRVs are double-ended, so all the driver has to do is change cabs.

      Additionally, buses produce rubber particulate pollution from the tyres, and tend to have higher OPEX than light rail.

      The city centre and main Isthmus routes have suffered from bus congestion & unreliability for the past decade at least – there is a wealth of photographic evidence searchable on Twitter. Longer buses or trolleybuses won’t solve that – a higher-capacity mode (i.e. light rail) would still be needed a little further down the line.

      Replacing one or two arterial bus routes (e.g. Sandringham & Dominion Rds) with light rail would free up a lot of capacity on the CBD bus corridor along Wellesley St and Symonds St, making those corridors more reliable and able to last longer as bus routes.

      Light rail shouldn’t cost $8-9bill either – it seems that figure is being inflated by land acquisition and redevelopment costs. By overseas standards ($60-150 million per km) the CC2M line should cost $2-4 billion.

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